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Slow Cooker Turkey Chili with Squash & Beans

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili with Squash & Beans
Home » RECIPES » Soups & stews » Slow Cooker Turkey Chili with Squash & Beans

Slow-cooker turkey and butternut squash chili is the perfect dish to make for cold nights, especially if you’re looking for a tasty way to use leftover turkey from Thanksgiving. It’s a perfect balance of sweet, spicy and smoky.

Mexican Turkey, squash and poblano chili.
Mexican Turkey, squash and poblano chili.

Jump to: RECIPE | Ingredients & Substitutions | How to Get Smoky Flavor | Illustrated Step by Step

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Ingredients and Substitutions

Here are the ingredients used in the recipe below, with ideas for substitutions following the photo:

Ingredients for turkey and squash chili.
Ingredients: poblano peppers, turkey, butternut squash, black beans, chicken bouillon, onion, spices, tomato paste

The Turkey

I used cooked turkey leftover from our Thanksgiving meal for one testing, and for the other test I used a store-bought raw turkey breast and cooked it in the microwave.

Ground turkey would work just fine also, but I would saute it with the onions and poblanos before adding to the crockpot to enhance the flavor.

Of course pork, chicken or beef would work just fine with the flavors in this recipe. Again however, if you use ground meat, saute it first with the onions to enhance flavor. Otherwise just chop your protein into bite size pieces and add to the slow cooker.

Vegetarian chili? You bet. Just use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and exclude the meat.


I used fresh poblano peppers as they are medium spiciness and complement the smoky ancho powder used in the recipe. You could also use dried ancho (dried poblano peppers) which would rehydrate in the slow cooker broth.

If you like your chili with more spicy heat, you can always switch out the poblano peppers to a jalapeno, serrano or even a habanero.

Usually, however, chili is made for a crowd with diverse tastes around hot peppers. Therefore, I would stick with a medium hot pepper and then serve the chili with a bottle of hot sauce on the table.

Spice Blends

There are so many ways to go with spices. I used the classic cumin and bay leaf and then added a Mexican flair with a smoky ancho/chipotle mix and a little cinnamon.

**Pro Tip: Toast cumin seeds lightly and then grind into a powder with your coffee grinder for superb extra flavor


Black beans are a classic when using the Mexican flavors in this dish. Kidney beans are a classic for chili in general, white beans complement chicken chili, and pinto beans work with all chilies.

Black beans also have the visual benefit of looking really pretty with the orange squash in the Fall.

Can’t decide? Mix and match the beans to your preference.

Of course you can use dried beans if you are a bean aficionado, but I just opted for canned beans for ease. I use dried beans when the bean itself is the star, but in this chili, beans play a side role to the squash and poblano peppers.

*Note: If you are on a strict slow carb diet, squash might take you over your carb limit. A chili recipe with beans and Mexican spices that is compliant with a slow carb diet is this crockpot big batch chili.

This chart from (magazine) is a great breakdown of the various chile peppers in their fresh vs dried form.

Mexican Chili Peppers Fresh (Fresco) vs Dried (Seco)

chart showing chile peppers in fresh vs dried form.
Chili pepper chart from

How to Get the Smoky Flavor

A poblano pepper is the fresh version of an ancho pepper. The ancho pepper is smoked and dried and used extensively in Mexican cooking to add a smoky, medium background heat.

The chipotle pepper is a smoked and dried version of a jalapeno, but it is quite a bit spicier than the ancho. Just know that the heat level of these peppers varies quite a bit depending on where it was grown and how it was smoked.

In the recipe below I used a smoky blend of ancho, chipotle and smoked pasilla. I grow and dry these peppers on our farm, but you can purchase powdered versions of each and blend your own mix.

Did you know? The heat level of chili peppers is related to the amount of stress they have in their growing environment. We tend to have hot Summers and I don’t water that much so our peppers are generally ”stressed” and therefore tend to be on the hot side.

Turkey chili with squash and black beans in a white bowl.
Turkey chili with squash, beans & smoky peppers

Illustrated Step by Step

Here are the steps lined out with photos. For the details of the recipe itself, see the recipe card below.

Chopped poblano peppers, onion and garlic on white cutting board.
Step #1: Chop the onions, pepper and garlic while the oil is heating up in the skillet
Chopped onions carmelizing in skillet
Step #2: Caramelize onions for 5- minutes
Poblano peppers, onions and garlic cooking in cast iron skillet.
Step #3: Add the peppers to the skillet and cook until softened (~5 min). Add the garlic and cook another minute. Remove from heat.
Chopped Winter squash on cutting board.
Step #4: Chop the raw squash into bite-size pieces and remove rind.
Turkey chili ingredients in a slow cooker pot.
Step #5: Add all ingredients to the slow cooker (including the onion skillet mixture).
Ingredients for turkey squash chili in slow cooker, stirred together.
Step #6: Stir all ingredients together, cover and set slow cooker to low for 6 hours.
Mexican chili with leftover turkey, squash and poblano peppers.
Mexican chili with leftover turkey, squash and poblano peppers.

If you enjoy all types of Mexican food, check out this category of ALL Mexican recipes, where you will find over 40 Mexican recipes, from casual, to low carb, to fancy.

Like this recipe? It helps me out greatly if you leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟rating in the recipe card below and maybe even leave me a quick comment too!

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

Bowl of turkey, black bean and butternut squash chili.
This chili is a great way to use leftover turkey, but it will also work with ground turkey, ground pork or ground beef. Alternatively leave out the meat and enjoy this as a vegetarian chili.
5 from 6 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 257


  • 1-2 pounds turkey can be ground turkey or chopped cooked turkey
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 onion
  • 2-3 poblano peppers
  • 2-4 cloves garlic minced
  • 4 cups butternut squash or other Winter squash; peeled and chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 15 ounces canned black beans rinsed
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons smoked chile powder ancho, chipotle, or smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin if possible toast the seeds and then grind
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth


  • If your turkey is leftover turkey, chop it into bite size pieces. If it is raw turkey breast, cook it (roast or microwave) until no longer pink. If you are using ground turkey, cook it in the skillet after the onions are caramelized.
    1-2 pounds turkey
  • Coarsely chop the onion and poblanos. Heat oil in skillet and sauté onions 5-7 minutes until golden brown and caramelized. Add poblano peppers and cook an additional 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.
    1 onion, 2-3 poblano peppers, 2-4 cloves garlic, 2 tablespoons oil
  • Peel and chop the squash into bite size pieces.
    4 cups butternut squash
  • To the slow cooker add all ingredients (including the sauteed onion/pepper mix). Stir together and turn slow cooker onto low heat for 6 hours.
    1/4 cup tomato paste, 2 tablespoons smoked chile powder, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 bay leaf, 2 cups chicken broth, 15 ounces canned black beans
  • Serve in bowls with sides of sour cream and/or salsa.


To make ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
**Tip:  Toast the cumin seeds lightly and then grind into a powder with your coffee grinder for superb extra flavor.
If you enjoy all types of Mexican food, check out this category of ALL Mexican recipes, where you will find over 40 Mexican recipes, from casual, to low carb, to fancy.
**Want more like this? Subscribe to our Sunday newsletter to get recipes, gardening guides and diet help. Let’s go from Inspiration to Done!


Calories: 257kcalCarbohydrates: 29gProtein: 19gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 39mgSodium: 1026mgPotassium: 921mgFiber: 8gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 10281IUVitamin C: 58mgCalcium: 104mgIron: 4mg
Did you make this recipe?If you tried this recipe, please give it a star rating! To do this, just click on the stars above. Comments are always helpful also and I respond to all of them (except rude ones)

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  1. Maria says:

    5 stars
    This sounds like just what I need now that Fall has really kicked in! 😍

  2. Beth Camero says:

    5 stars
    I put this in the slow cooker an hour ago. Hot damn it smells good! A five star rating from my nose.

  3. Beth Camero says:

    Dorothy- I used leftover Turkey, tried a new recipe for Thanksgiving so had some handy. That Chili was far and away the best non beef/non standard chili I’ve ever eaten. I would make this again on purpose. Now, I’m off to do the candied pumpkin to see if that might be a suitable Noah for the Thanksgiving company we will have. Thank you for all the great recipes!

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